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Could Anthony Stolarz Stay with the Panthers? He Hopes So

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Florida Panthers goaltender Anthony Stolarz celebrates with Matthew Tkachuk after a win in Buffalo on Feb. 15. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

SUNRISE — Anthony Stolarz is going to have a big summer. But will it involve the Florida Panthers?

He says he hopes things can be worked out and he can stay with the Panthers.

Stolarz will be a free agent when this season ends, and after his year as Sergei Bobrovsky’s backup, several teams will call agent Allain Roy to try to sign his client.

Tuesday night, after pitching his second shutout for the Panthers this season, Stolarz told Florida Hockey Now that he hopes he and general manager Bill Zito can work together when the time comes to start discussing the future.

“At the end of the day, I am very happy here,” Stolarz said after ending his full media availability following a 26-save performance in the Panthers 2-0 win over the Ottawa Senators.

“I really like it here. If there is a way we could potentially make something happen, I’ll talk to my agent and my guys after the season and talk to Billy and see if anything can come to fruition. I am having fun living in the presence right now.”

The Panthers have many things going on in their goalie situation moving forward.

Bobrovsky is the starter here and has two years left on his contract.

Although Bobrovsky still has a $10-million cap hit for the next two seasons, he will be owed $6.5 million in each of the next two seasons.

If Florida were to look to trade or buy out Bobrovsky — and there is zero indication they want or would do either — the contract would allow at least some flexibility for that in the final two seasons.

Bobrovsky’s full no-movement clause he had for the first five years of the deal turns into a 16-team no-trade list for the final two years.

Then, there is Spencer Knight.

Stolarz was targeted during the offseason to join the Panthers because Florida planned on having Knight spend this season in the minors—despite it being the first season of his three-year, $13.5-million deal.

The Panthers figured Stolarz was used to being an NHL backup and had grown very comfortable in that position.

Florida wanted Knight to carry a heavier load, something he could do in Charlotte.

Knight is expected to be back with the Panthers any time now and, very well, could be Florida’s No. 2 behind Bobrovsky next season.

As for Stolarz?

Well, he will get a nice raise on the $1.1 million contract he signed with the Panthers on July 1.

Stolarz leads all NHL goalies who have played 20-plus games with a .926/2.03.

There are a lot of teams looking for a starting goalie, something Stolarz has never been in his NHL career.

Is Anthony Stolarz a starting goalie in the NHL?

“Yeah,” Sam Bennett said, chuckling. “If you go off his games this year, absolutely. I don’t know many teams who would not want him in their net. He can play goalie for me any time.”

How about it Anthony?

“Yeah, I think so,” Stolarz said.

Stolarz said Tuesday that he is not thinking about what is next.

He cannot be, not with what is at stake in the coming weeks for the Panthers.

The free agency stuff will all work itself out in time.

This is not that time.

“I take that day by day, don’t think about it very much,’’ he said. “I have gone through a lot of adversity in my career, been a free agent twice now and have had some injuries. So, I just take it day by day, season by season and see how things go. I cherish each moment.’’

As for how things are going right now, Stolarz agrees this is the best time of his hockey life.

And why not?

“It’s pretty fun, hockey is fun,’’ he said. “Like I said earlier, usually I am packing up for the summer about now. To be in the playoffs, to have a chance, is what you want. This is why you play this game.’’

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

ON DECK

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL/Panthers App
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season (Florida leads 2-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Jackets 4 OT (Nov.6); Thursday. At Columbus: Panthers 5, Blue Jackets 2 (Dec. 10)
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Columbus leads 26-19-4
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Buffalo, 5 p.m.

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